Learning to Value your Local Comic Shop

by Travis Gibb



Scan the internet and this is the nonsense you will hear every day.  Thousands of hours of YouTube content is designed to spread this news. Countless articles tell you that if your comic store doesn’t embrace X, Y, or Z then it will die. They know this because their bookstore has more manga than graphic novels or they saw more POP! figures than comics. My personal favorite, however, is the one that says we need to go back to spinner racks at grocery stores.

Comic Wall

In my opinion, this is all false

1) POP! are selling. POPS! are also really good at finding niche collector markets and bringing them into a store, and store traffic results in comic book sales.

2) Anime and manga are great sellers in the book market, but it doesn't seem to translate past that. Sure, an anime store will do really well in a big city, but if you put that same shop in a smaller town, odds are a comic store would do better. 

3) Spinner Racks show that comics were throwaways, not collector's items. It wasn't until collectors got into the hobby that any creator made any money. I don't think putting us back in grocery stores will help us. If it did, Archie would be way more popular than it is.

Now, for the last elephant in the room: are comic stores dying?

The reality is no more than any other store in America owned by a single owner. Yes, they are going through a rough patch, and it doesn't look like it's stopping anytime soon. However, comics are resilient. They are punk rock, and they are fighters.  New comic stores open and close every day. However, comic stores have outlived video and record stores. Who would have thought that your mom and pop comic shop would have outlasted Blockbuster and Virgin Megastore?  Comic book shops aren't going anywhere, and they are super important to the industry as well as you, the creators.

Let's talk about what a comic store is and why it can help you with your comic. The American comic book store is a retail establishment that specializes in selling comic books and related merchandise. These stores are dedicated to serving the needs of comic book enthusiasts, collectors, and fans. They typically carry a wide range of comic books, graphic novels, manga, and other geek-related stuff.

Comic book shops aren't going anywhere, and they are super important to the industry as well as you, the creators.

Comic book stores offer a variety of comics, including superhero comics, independent or alternative comics, science fiction and fantasy comics, and many other genres that we can't even begin to go into because comics are that damn cool. In addition to comic books, these stores may sell related items such as action figures, collectibles, posters, apparel, and comic book-related accessories. Many even have a gaming side to capture every aspect of geek culture.

Comic book stores often serve as gathering places for fans of the medium, hosting events like comic book signings, release parties, and gaming nights. They may also provide a platform for local artists and writers to showcase their work. Some comic book stores have a knowledgeable staff that can provide recommendations and information about the latest comic book releases, helping customers discover new titles or complete their collections.

Comic Store Signing

Now, why am I spending all this time going on about what a comic store does and sells? It's because, sadly, most of the comic community never tries to build a relationship with local comic book shops. To be successful in comics, you have to have more than just a comic. You have to build a name and brand around you. So, here are 5 things you can do with your comic store to help increase your exposure and to help make a bigger name for yourself in the comic industry.

1) GET TO KNOW YOUR COMIC STORE -  Your local comic store is the best resource you can get to learn what will sell to comic fans. Talk to them, find out what’s selling, read a few so you know who you are going up against, and see if they support indie comics. This information is going to help you make better decisions when you are selling your comic to a larger audience.

2) GET YOUR COMIC SOLD IN THE COMIC STORE- Many creators are worried about making a profit and don't see the value of having the comic they made in a comic store. They are always waiting until it gets picked up by a publisher before they get it in stores. I am telling you right now you need to sell comics to a comic store even if it's at break-even prices. You need to show that your comic deserves to be on the shelves with Marvel, DC and Image. Being on those shelves is worth any amount of profit you will make from the sales of the book. It's also proof of your book being valued in the direct market.

3) TRY AND SET UP A SIGNING - This is a big one I don't see enough creators doing. Setting up a signing at your local comic store will help you find a fanbase with its clientele. People want to follow the careers of relatable people, and if you are both in the same town, that is a great way to start. Also, this picture of you signing at a local comic store looks great for future publishers when they scan your profile and see what you do. They know at least 1 store is going to pick up your book.

4) STORE EXCLUSIVE VARIANTS - A store may not be able to afford that 1000 copy order to get the hottest Spider-Man variant, but they can get a small 25 print order from you. Any store worth its salt can sell 20 copies of a variant regardless of the book. These store exclusives help get you into the collector’s market. You and the comic store can make a little bit of profit, and it feels really cool to have a variant from a comic store that you know and love. It also looks great on the internet when your cover is being sold on Whatnot or on a store’s website. People love exclusives!

5) CONVENTIONS - Stores fall into 3 categories here:

A) They run conventions.
B) They buy booths at conventions.
C) They want nothing to do with conventions.

A and B we can work with. If they run conventions, don't be afraid to ask if you can be a guest. An up and coming creator can be a very cool guest for their show. If they don't run a convention, ask if you can go in with them as part of their setup. Many comic stores will have an artist or writer there on the main floor to help draw attention. It will also keep you out of artist alley where passersby aren’t necessarily there to buy comics.

In summary, comic creators should value comic book stores for their role in distribution, promotion, community building, and providing direct access to readers. Establishing strong relationships with these stores can be mutually beneficial and help you gain exposure. That exposure can lead to more success in the competitive world of comic book publishing.

Keep creating.

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